Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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January 2003, Volume IX, Issue 9


God-breathed Scripture (3)

Since, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [literally, God-breathed]," it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16). The infinitely wise God did not breathe forth a Word of little use or value; He breathed forth the most eminently useful and profitable book ever produced.

Some recognise the profit of the Scriptures but they use them the wrong way. They think that the Bible’s profit consists in its telling us (in code form) when Christ will return (contrast Mark 13:32) or who will win a war or a sporting event. Others open up the Bible at random and put their finger on a verse hoping that it will guide them in decision-making: Should I move house? Should I marry him? Should I become a minister? Where should I go on holiday? etc. Others think that the purpose of Bible reading is to make them happy and feel good about themselves.

The Bible must be used to learn about our Father and the duty He requires of us so that we can glorify Him and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. & A. 1, 3). II Timothy 3:16 explains the profit of Scripture in four short phrases. The Bible is profitable "for doctrine." Note that doctrine or teaching is put first; many today would place this last or ignore it altogether. Scripture instructs us about the Triune God, glorious in His holiness, power and truth, and His eternal purpose with the world, centring in saving His people through faith in Christ crucified and risen (15).

The Scriptures not only teach us the truth but they teach us how to live the truth. They are "for reproof," convicting us and stinging our consciences for our wicked ways. They are also "for correction." By "reproof" the Bible shows us our sins; by "correction" it tells us what we must do. Moreover, Scripture is "for instruction in righteousness," so that it provides us with disciplined training in godliness. Since the Word is God’s hammer, it also empowers us to grow in grace day by day.

It is vital that you believe that there is profit in the Bible. If you don’t, you’ll stop reading it on your own, for what good does it do? You’ll grow weary in and then cease family devotions. On the other hand believing in the profit of the Scriptures, you’ll make diligent use of the Word personally and collectively. You’ll search the Scriptures and not merely "skim" it. And you’ll memorize parts of it and meditate upon it.

So look for profit in the Word in the way that it says it will profit you. Expect to be taught, rebuked, corrected and disciplined in righteousness by the Bible. If you are not profiting, there is something wrong in your spiritual life and you must repent and rediscover the glory of the God-breathed Scriptures. Rev. Stewart

The Mysteries of the Kingdom (2)

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not hear (Luke 8:10).

A reader asked: "Is this election and reprobation, or just acknowledging that some just will not turn and believe (as some commentaries maintain)?" I began to treat this question in the last issue of the News. I asked our readers to save that issue so that they could refer to it and re-read the last article before reading this one.

In that News I quoted the parallel passages to Luke 8:10 in Matthew 13 and Mark 4. I also pointed out that Jesus explains in these passages that His purpose in His use of parables as a method of instruction is to make the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven so clear that everyone can understand them. Jesus wants to be sure that not only His disciples, but all the people, including the scribes and Pharisees, understood as clearly as possible the truths of the kingdom He had come to establish.

That this is indeed the purpose of the Lord is evident from the expressions in the text. All three gospel narratives emphasize that all men see and hear the mysteries of the kingdom. Luke says, "... seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not hear." Matthew and Mark quote the prophecy of Isaiah more fully, but both use the same words. Men see and hear, and Isaiah 6:9-10 is fulfilled, which passage stresses that "seeing they see, and hearing they hear." Mark refers to the same passage and quotes it in an identical way. So the text teaches that all who heard Jesus’ parables heard and even saw the parables. And hearing and seeing the parables, they heard and saw the mysteries of the kingdom so they understood what the truth of the kingdom of heaven was.

By way of a parenthesis, it is interesting to note, that the word which Jesus uses for "see" is a word which means "understand." It is exactly what we mean when we are puzzled by something, an explanation is given us, and we say, "Now I see."

But the question now is: Why was it so important that all men heard and understood the truths concerning the kingdom of heaven?

The answer is that the wicked must be without excuse. The wicked Jews constantly rejected the teachings of Jesus and rejected Jesus Himself as the promised Messiah who had come to establish the everlasting kingdom of heaven. Although they pretended to be pious, God-serving, keepers of the law, and the true children of Abraham, they were actually terribly wicked. Their piety was outward, their righteousness was self-righteousness, their claims to be children of Abraham were claims based only on natural descent, and their sin was great.

And their sin must be shown for what it really is: proud self-righteousness. Jesus ripped the mask of their hypocrisy from their faces and exposed them for what they really were. He did this by making the truths of the kingdom of heaven as clear as it is possible to make them by His use of parables. In this way, it became evident that their rejection of parables was due to their own depravity and wickedness and not due to ignorance or inability to understand. They rejected Christ and the gospel He preached because they hated God and His Christ. Since they were blinded by their own self-righteousness, they did not see the need of the cross of the Saviour.

In the judgment day they will have to give an account of their rejection of Christ and the kingdom He established. When they stand before Christ, they will not be able to say, "We did not know what the kingdom was all about. We did not understand something so spiritual. If things had been made more clear to us, we would have believed on Christ as Saviour." The answer to such excuses will be: "The Lord spoke in parables and made clear beyond all contradiction the truths of the kingdom. You did not refuse to enter the kingdom because you did not understand. You rejected the kingdom because you hated it, for in it there is no room for your self-righteousness. It is a kingdom established in the cross of Christ."

This is clearly the reason why the Lord taught in parables. The use of parables exposed the sin of unbelief. It is well that we remember this, for what was true in Jesus’ day, is still true today. The gospel of the kingdom includes parables. Parables make the truth concerning the kingdom so clear that everyone can understand it. Their refusal to believe is not born in ignorance. It is the fruit of their terrible sin. Those who reject the gospel have no excuse. Their terrible punishment is deserved.

And, we must add, in this way God is completely justified in all that He does. God is shown to be righteous and holy. When God sends to hell, no one will ever be able to say that God is unjust in punishing the sinner. Even the wicked themselves will have to admit that their punishment is what they truly deserved.

But this does not yet answer the question whether this passage teaches election and reprobation. That question is very important. As I already intimated, the answer to that question is an emphatic affirmative. Yes, the passage teaches election and reprobation. It teaches this doctrine so clearly that the truth of sovereign predestination cannot be denied without doing violence to the text.

We shall address this question in the next issue of the News (DV). Again, please save these last two issues of the News so that you can refer to them next time. Prof. H. Hanko

Is Universal Atonement True? (3)

In the last two issues of the News, we raised seven objections against the popular notion that Jesus gave His life to atone for the sins of all men without exception. Please consult your Bibles as you follow arguments #8-9 below, especially #9.

(8) If Christ died for absolutely everybody (and His atonement is surely motivated by love; Eph. 5:25; John 3:16), then he also loved and died for the false church, the whore and the multitudes who fornicate with her in her corrupt worship (Rev. 17:1-2, 15). But Ephesians 5:25 teaches that Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it." No mention is made here of a love of Christ or a death of Christ for that which is not the true church which is sanctified by God’s cleansing Word (26) and presented spotless at the last day (27). If Christ did love and die for everyone head for head (which necessarily includes the false church), then Christ "loved the church [and the false church], and gave himself for [them]." But husbands are commanded, "love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church [and the false church]" (25). Thus husbands would have to love their wives even as Christ loves His bride and a whore, the false church.

But Scripture teaches that Christ has one bride, the church of all ages (Rev. 21:2). He loved her and gave Himself for her alone. This—and not the theory that Jesus loved and died for everybody—is the truth of the cross, and the model for Christian husbands.

(9) Isaiah 53 is the greatest chapter in the OT, and possibly in the whole Bible, on Christ’s substitutionary atonement. The "us" for whose sins Christ was "wounded" (4-6) are given specific names: "my people" (8), "his seed" (10), and the "many"—not all men head for head (11-12). They are the "pleasure of the Lord" who "prosper in his hand" (10). God never made the reprobate "prosper in his hand" and He was never pleased with them. They are not His seed, people and pleasure; and so Jesus did not die for them.

Those for whom Christ died "are healed" by "his stripes" (5). It isn’t merely that they might be healed if they believe, but they really are healed. Those whose sins Christ bore are also justified: "my righteous servant [shall] justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (11). God’s elect "people" (8) are justified for Christ bore our punishment (11). The reprobate are not justified, thus Christ did not atone for them. It is for the "many" whose sins He bore that Christ intercedes (12). Remember, Jesus said, "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me" (John 17:9). The "many" for whom Christ suffered and for whom He prays are the elect, not the reprobate world. In this way, Jesus is perfectly "satisfied" (Isa. 53:11). If some for whom He was "stricken" (8) and for whom He intercedes (12) are not healed (5) and justified (11) and do not "prosper in his hand" (10) and do not receive a share in His spoils (12), Christ is not satisfied. If even one soul perishes for whom He died, Christ’s purpose is not fully realised, His atonement is not totally successful and He is dissatisfied. Rev. Stewart

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